Making Music from the Present Moment

Next week I’m teaching a class at the Nashville Jazz Workshop called Soul Song: Setting your Inner Musician Free.

The purpose of the class is to explore the blockages that keep us from practicing and playing/singing from a place of pure joy.  Once those roadblocks are known, they begin to let go of us.

Kenny Werner has a magnificent book on the subject called Effortless Mastery, and this text, along with Victor Wooten’s The Music Lesson, will be our texts for the class.

I also add music exercises involving visualization of the keyboard from Marianne Ploger’s work, and some of Byron Katie’s self inquiry process called “The Work.”

It seems that the most pressing issue we have as a collective species is the matter of evolving into a more mature consciousness.

With the world experiencing so many manifestations of escalating chaos, it might be more imperative than ever to take responsibility for our internal states of mind.  As musicians I believe we have the opportunity to experience presence through the performance of music – because music can only be experienced in the present moment.

Think of music as something that we channel.  If our channel is not clear, or rather we are resisting the flow of the present moment, we cannot fully experience music. Or, share it with others.

When we go back and remember why we started playing music in the first place, we find clues about our BEING which is the foundation of literally everything.  Including music.

In a mind-bending blog post by Leo Babauta at Zen Habits, I’m reminded that instead of trying to reach goals we could just do things out of the love for doing them.  Would Kenny Werner agree with this perspective as it pertains to playing and singing?

Just because you don’t have goals doesn’t mean you do nothing – you can create, you can produce, you can follow your passion. -Leo Babauta

Click here for Leo’s full post called: the best goal is no goal

If you play music of any kind, you are welcome to join the Soul Song class.  Even if you can’t make the class, please enjoy Kenny Werner and Victor Wooten’s books. 

Here’s to more allowing, especially as we play and sing music.

 

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There Are No New Thoughts

How liberating to know there are no new thoughts!  Everything we ponder has been pondered before.  Think about it.

Barring great pioneers such as Albert Einstein, the rest of us should not expect to bring brand new knowledge into the world.  New collections of ideas maybe, but not new ideas themselves. We all borrow or steal ideas from each other as a matter of course.  This is the way of it – across time and across the human condition.

Both Byron Katie and Elizabeth Gilbert discuss this topic in their work.  “There are no new stressful thoughts,” Katie says.  Gilbert agrees: creative work consists of recycled and re-purposed thoughts uniquely brought together.  We are not working with new materials here, people.

So, why would the idea of “no new thoughts” be liberating and not depressing?

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The Gift of Limitation

“It is amazing what can happen if you force yourself into a limitation.”
Iris Scott, Fingerpaint Master in 60 sec docs

Life can seem like a series of limitations.  We often don’t have what we think we need or want.  (Notice the word *think.*)

But, as it turns out, what we have is exactly . . . what we need.  Because we have it.  In the moment, we can perceive something as a limitation, or we can become friends with it – stop fighting against it.  This is the only way to find peace.  Because peace happens in the moment and no where else.

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Why Are We Terrible at Breathing?

I’m sincerely asking: why are we terrible at breathing?  Why don’t we spend time practicing?

There are endless free resources about techniques and health benefits of breathing.  This post aims to posit questions about why we are terrible at it.  Terrible meaning not paying attention to it, and therefore not practicing it.  We meaning the collective we.

There may be a lot of reasons, but here are a few ideas to get the conversation rolling.

The primary reason we might be terrible at breathing is because the thought of having poor skills or awareness about something our bodies do automatically sounds ludicrous.

The ego will judge the above question seriously flawed and dismiss it before we even realize what’s happened.

Truth: our bodies breathe for us.

At night while we sleep.
After we’ve passed out.
All day long without a conscious thought involved.
Breathing happens.

Truth: the body is very good at breathing.  It is just how we do.

You can see how the concept of “getting better at breathing” can be shot down instantaneously by the ego, right?

Is this why we basically ignore breathing?

Do we ignore breathing because our minds won’t allow us to experience things that are “too simple,” or “too easy” or “automatic?”

“Why pay attention to breathing when I don’t have to?” says the ego. So, it doesn’t.

What Happens if We Start Paying Attention to the Breath?

In order to get better at breathing, we must begin at the beginning.  Albeit breathing is controlled by the autonomic nervous system, it can also be directed.  It is both automatic and controllable.

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Why “Giving Up” is a Good Strategy

We all deal with difficult circumstances at some point in life. Money woes, relationship trials, career dilemmas, health issues; the list is long and all too familiar.

What this post aims to address is why giving up the internal (psychological) struggle is worth it.

What’s the Problem?

If everyone experiences challenges, then what’s the real problem here? If our circumstances and stories are played out over and over and over across history (because, let’s admit, there is nothing happening to you or me that hasn’t already happened a million times to a million different people), then why struggle with them?

Why continue to suffer when the story is so utterly stale and boring? It doesn’t make sense! I don’t know about you, but I only watch a great movie 2 or 3 times. After that, I’m cool. Got it, moving on. Right?

Why do we humans keep playing out the same old stories over and over again? Why do we continue to struggle when the story of struggle is SO yesterday’s news? Isn’t there something else to do down here on planet earth to do?

(Take this moment as an opportunity to admit that most of us put up a mental fight with our circumstances most of the time. It’s the normal way of the world.)

Here’s one, small example of how we get stuck in our own mental struggles:
Ask yourself – I am reeeeeallly the only one who has ever gone through this particular situation? (ie, “this problem”)

Then ask yourself:

Can you absolutely know that that’s true?
And how alone and stuck and tired does that make you feel to think that way?
What kind of awesome would you feel if you could let that “problem” go?
Who would you connect with?
What ideas and solutions would you discover if you could “give up” the idea that you are suffering alone?

Sometimes I think that the only real problem is the psychological struggle we humans put up against . . . oh, you know . . . everything and anything. You name it, we will find a way to struggle through it. Even the “good” stuff!

Which is why I think “giving up” is a good strategy for getting through life.

Surrender

Most spiritual disciplines extol the virtues of surrender. Why is this? And what do they mean by surrender? Why is surrender such a key element in major spiritual practices? Is it because psychological and emotional surrender is the only place we can truly experience peace? Why do we need to experience peace?

These are big questions with answers that can only be found inside yourself.

You could say, however, that surrendering to the circumstance at hand is a lovely place to start dealing with any “problem.”

You could say “giving up” is the open field of sunshiny freedom where truly creative solutions and wisdom frolic about and beg us to dance.

That’s a lot to digest. So, take a smoke break here if you need it.

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